By Hayden Choate
The Springfield College men’s lacrosse team was in the midst of an overtime battle against No. 11 Amherst on March 23. Coming out of a timeout after they gained possession by winning the first face-off, the Pride wanted to end the game immediately.
Working the ball around, junior Mason Nocito tossed the ball to senior captain Zac Schuette. Schuette decided to take a run at his defender, beginning his dodge with his right hand before quickly switching to his left while in a full sprint.
As he worked down the right side of the Amherst goalie, Schuette shot the ball on the run. It landed in the right side of the net, giving Springfield a 15-14 win over the nationally-ranked Amherst team.
Even after the ball had hit the net, Schuette maintained his full sprint and ripped his helmet off after running around the goal and then back towards Springfield’s end of the field with his teammates.
“It was such a blur I was just full of excitement,” Schuette said. “A bunch of the guys joked with me that my helmet’s still in orbit right now, I just launched it, it was just an awesome celebration with the guys and something we really needed this season.”
The goal wasn’t only special because it lifted his team to a much-needed win over a strong opponent – it was also his 100th career point.
“That was pretty cool to have it against a NESCAC team,” Schuette said. “A lot of the guys on the team have never beat a NESCAC, so it’s a pretty good step in the right direction for the program and hopefully we can keep it going the rest of the season.”
Although it was Schuette who captured the win with his shot – his fifth goal of the game – he credits his teammates for helping him get the game-winner.
“A lot of guys have stepped up in a really big way,” Schuette said. “Like Connor Roberts, Tommy Briscoe, Connor Dubzicki, our faceoff guy Steven Betsch – they stepped up in big times when we needed it, they made stops and were able to slow that offense down.”
Four games later, Schuette has 115 points in his career – a very impressive feat since he has only played 39 games for the Pride.
“Unfortunately, missing two years, I didn’t have the career I was hoping for here, but I’m making the best of it this season and going all in right now,” Schuette said. “The 100th point feels great, but I wouldn’t be able to do it without the guys on offense finding me in perfect spots and their finishing passes. A lot of the assists I’ve had maybe weren’t great passes but I’ve had a lot of guys catch them then finish them.”
Growing up in Ballston Spa, New York, a small town near Saratoga, Schuette played baseball in the spring until he was in fourth grade.
Trying out for a team with kids older than he was, a young Schuette had made it to the final round of the process until he was cut from the team. He was upset but it was his mother’s advice that helped him find a new game.
“My mom was like, ‘You don’t have to play baseball’ — because my brother played baseball and my sister played softball — she was like, ‘You can try something else,’” Schuette said. “So I tried lacrosse and just ran with it and never looked back.”
When Schuette joined his local lacrosse team, he became part of a group that learned and grew together playing the sport all the way through high school.
“We had a really talented group in my class specifically,” Schuette said. “We kind of changed my high school into a pretty good team in the area.”
In his senior year, Schuette and his team made program history when they secured their first-ever sectional title.
Schuette’s high school lacrosse coach attended Springfield and played for head coach Keith Bugbee, so it was easy for him to recommend Schuette consider the school.
From the beginning, Alden Street was the place for him.
“Just the culture. I walked on campus with Coach Vin (Senatore) at the time and I was like, ‘I love it here’ and my parents were like, ‘Yeah it’s a good fit.’”
Four years later with only one full season under his belt, Schuette has tried to make the best of his time with the Pride.
“It’s definitely been a learning curve, really. I played my freshman year but I’m a sophomore when I’m really a senior and all our guys have never been able to experience a full season and we’re the only ones who have as seniors,” Schuette said.
During Schuette’s freshman year, the team captured its 12th straight NEWMAC title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
However, that May 2019 win in the first round was Springfield’s last win until Feb. 2022. Playing only seven games the past two springs due to COVID-19, Schuette and the team knew they needed an important part of their program back: their culture.
“We’re trying to reinvent the wheel a little bit as seniors and bring the culture a little bit because we weren’t allowed to hang out in Cheney (Dining Hall), we weren’t able to hang out in the locker room,” Schuette said. “[We’re] a really tight-knit group now. I feel like last year we were a little bit divided because of the circumstances and now it’s like, I’ll go to bat for any one of these guys on the team and I know they’ll do the same for me.”
As one of the captains of the team Schuette knows how important it is to be a role model not just on the field especially on offense but off it as well.
“Sometimes, you know, stuff doesn’t go our away and you have to set your emotions aside and just say ‘hey your going to make the next play right now and we need you right now and your going to step up and I know you will’ and I think a lot of the guys take to that,” Schuette said.
“Off the field it’s just being there for the guys it’s a lot less of. Sometimes, we don’t need to talk about lacrosse, [but instead] how are you doing, how is class going how are you adjusting to life after COVID on campus it’s been a good experience it’s been a big learning curve for me not being able to jump in as full as I’ve want to be the last couple years but I think back to what the captains did when I was a freshman and try to emmanulate that the best I can.”
The Pride only have a handful of games left in their season but have already played more games this year than the last two seasons combined. Although their record is 5-6 they have picked up big wins over Nazareth, Amherst, Babson, Wheaton and Western New England.
“Just one game at a time, we’re really stressing one game seasons right now,” Schuette said. “We’re not trying to look too far ahead, not trying to look in the back, we’re looking through the windshield and we’ve kind of learned from our rearview mirror the things behind us.”
Photo: Springfield College Athletics